LARC NEWS Posted: 9/1/2013 10:45:34 PM


Reliance Ranches’ Feature Hero, a 24-1 longshot, earned a berth to the prestigious $750,000 Champion of Champions after winning the richest race in Quarter Horse racing history by taking the Grade 1 $2,809,784 All American Derby on Sunday at Ruidoso Downs.


Feature Hero joins an outstanding group that includes reigning Champion of Champions winner Rylees Boy, Remington Park Championship winner Priceless Feature and Vessels Maturity winner Last To Fire in this year’s Champion of Champions. Feature Hero’s victory also denied the bid of Wicked Courage to sweep the three Grade 1 derbies at Ruidoso Downs


Feature Hero was the tenth and final qualifier to the All American Derby, however he was fastest when it counted with a perfect trip in the All American Derby. The Valiant Hero gelding broke cleanly from the seventh post position while Wonderboy in the eight hole went out and Tayte Me Down in the sixth post position moved inward at the start. That left Feature Hero with nothing but a clear racetrack ahead of him.

“We believed in (Feature Hero) and are so proud of him,” said Reliance Ranch owners Larry and Micah McKinney. “We weren’t concerned that he was the tenth-fastest qualifier. This is the thrill of a lifetime.”

The McKinneys founded Racing Free, a new program that rewards owners of racehorses who win races and are drug free. It is a national effort to promote drug-free racing. Larry McKinney said Feature Hero and nine of the 10 horses in Monday’s All American Futurity are enrolled in the Racing Free program.

“He left there on the lead,” said winning rider Jimmy Dean Brooks. “I reached and got after him right-handed a few times and then switched (to his left hand) on him.

“I thought they might be catching me, but they kind of ran up on me so I got him a few more times left-handed and he just kinda exploded away from them. Right down here on the end of it, they were coming at me — but not very fast.”

Feature Hero was able to hold fastest-qualifier Bon Accord safe by one quarter of a length. Point Break Dash was another three quarters of a length back in third.

Runner-up Bon Accord has been on a roll for owners J. Garvan Kelly, Nancy Yearsley and Vinewood Farms. The Shazoom gelding trained by Juan Aleman came into the race with the fastest-qualifying time of :20.977. Rodrigo Aceves was up for the trial win and in the All American Derby on the gelding.

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